Part scenic drive, part hike, and part exploration station, Blue Lakes trail near Breckenridge Colorado is one of the best hikes in Breckenridge . Whether you’re hiking to the waterfall, letting your kids run around, or keeping your distance from the resident mountain goats, Blue Lakes is sure to be a fun day out in the Colorado sunshine. Not to be confused with Blue Lakes near Ridgeway/Telluride in the southern mountains, these Blue Lakes are easily accessible by vehicle via Blue Lakes road, and are located just outside of beautiful Breckenridge.
These blue lakes hover right around tree line, a place where strong wind and heavy snowfall drive the landscape. There’s more rock than dirt, and these rocks house creatures such as marmot and pika. Because of the high altitude, you may want a light jacket or wind breaker even on warm summer days. On the north side of this valley likes Quandary Peak, Breckenridge’s local 14er. To the east is Hoosier Ridge, the line of mountains that spans from Hoosier Pass and includes Red Mountain, a difficult 13er with no designated trail.
View looking towards Lower Blue Lake from the dam. Hoosier Ridge and Red Mountain are in the distance.
Because of its beauty and ease of access, it’s one of the most heavily trafficked trails in the area. To avoid the crowds, visit on a weekday or during the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid weekends and holidays, as parking fills up fast and it’s not worth the trouble of dealing with the crowds. Have a backup plan just in case the parking lot is full, that way you can do something else instead and try Blue Lakes trail another day.
The upper lake as seen from the dam.
Hike to Blue Lakes Waterfall
After you park at the lower lake, you’ll walk down the hill towards the bottom end of the lake. You’ll need to cross the lake’s outlet, then continue on the dirt road. It turns sharply to the right, and continue to follow this. Keep an eye out for an old mining structure on the left. You can still see the massive iron rope that was used to transport mining material from the mine up on the mountainside.
Part of Blue Lakes Waterfall
The dirt road comes to an end at a clearing with several social trails meandering through the forest. Keep to the right to intersect the base of the waterfall, then you can explore more by climbing up the rocks and going higher up the cascading waterfall. Any exploration around the waterfall is going to be more of a moderate to difficult rating since it’s a rocky uphill climb. This is a great place to explore and enjoy the sound of the waterfall. Not as tall as Continental Falls, but incredible nonetheless
If you would like to see the upper part of the waterfall, you can keep going up, or you can retrace your steps back to your car and drive to the upper parking lot. From there, follow the road across the base of the dam and you can intersect the upper part of the waterfall from there.
Hike to Monte Cristo Gulch
Monte Cristo Gulch trail is a much more difficult endeavor than the Blue Lakes Waterfall trail, but you’re rewarded with even more amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Because it’s more difficult and less known, you’ll be more likely to find some solitude as well. This valley is carpeted in wildflowers during the peak summer months and offering amazing views of Monte Cristo Gulch and Blue Lakes Valley.
Hike Quandary Peak “West Ridge”
Quandary Peak is a local favorite 14er. From the Blue Lakes trailhead, you can take a class 3 climbing route called the “west ridge” as an alternate to the traditional Quandary Peak hike that begins down the road from Blue Lakes. This west ridge route is only for advanced hikers and requires route-finding and serious exposure. For more information about this route, 14ers.com has the best information.
Leave Breckenridge Colorado on Main Street / Highway 9 heading south. Continue for about 8 miles, then take a right turn onto County Road 850. It’s directly after a curve in the road, so putting directions in Google maps may be helpful so you don’t miss the turn. Follow this road all the way to the Blue Lakes area. While it’s unpaved, it’s easily do-able in most vehicles, although cars with lower clearance may need to take it slower. The first parking lot is at the outlet of the lower Blue Lake, and there’s a second parking area at the outlet of the upper lake near the dam. If you’re looking to walk to the waterfall, the best way to get there is to park at the lower lake.
This road is closed seasonally, once the snow is too much to pass. This varies greatly each year, but typically you can plan on the road being inaccessible November through June. This leaves a small window for visiting, with the best time being July and early August for green summer adventures and wildflowers.
Camping at Blue Lakes
Just before you get to the lower lake parking area, there’s a dirt road that splits off to the left. If you follow this road, you can find some free dispersed camping. Spots are extremely limited and are more geared towards tent camping. You used to be able to camp farther up the road near the lower lake and waterfall, but as of 2021, camping in this area is banned. Please follow the law and do not camp in illegal spots. Follow the 7 Principles of Leave no Trace, which include camping at least 100 feet from water sources and packing out all trash.
How do you get to Blue Lakes Trail Breckenridge?
Leave Breckenridge on Main Street / Highway 9 heading south. Continue for about 8 miles, then take a right turn onto County Road 850. It’s directly after a curve in the road, so putting directions in Google maps may be helpful so you don’t miss the turn. Follow this road all the way to the Blue Lakes area.
Here is a link to the trailhead: https://goo.gl/maps/EpywmHNHVJVWDwou6
Is Blue Lakes Road in Breckenridge open?
Blue Lakes Road in Breckenridge Colorado is closed seasonally for winter the road becomes snowed in. If you are reading this during warmer months (June-September) it will be drivable all the way to right below the upper lake. During winter months (November-April) the road will most likely be closed.
When the road is closed during winter months you will have to park at a lot further down the road and hike 2 miles into the lakes.
You will be parking here: https://goo.gl/maps/RKcvcXPXuPwkgQjt6
Where are the mountain goats in Breckenridge?
Blue Lakes in Breckenridge Colorado has a considerable population of resident mountain goats that can be seen there very often! Please keep in mind that these are wild animals and do not approach, touch, or feed these beautiful creatures. And as always remember to Leave No Trace
Can you camp at Blue Lakes in Breckenridge?
Just before you get to the lower lake parking area, there’s a dirt road that splits off to the left. If you follow this road, you can find some free dispersed camping on the dam of Lower Blue Lake. Spots are extremely limited and are more geared towards tent camping. You used to be able to camp farther up the road near the lower lake and waterfall, but as of 2021, camping in this area is banned. Please pay attention to the No Camping signs throughout the area. This place is highly trafficked by tourists and Game Wardens alike. You will be ticketed and potentially have your vehicle towed if you are camped illegally.
About the Author
Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, hiking, wildflowers, and mushrooms. If she isn’t writing content for Know Nothing Nomads, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.